Think tanks brainstorm to improve the ‘B&R’ initiative
Author :  Zhang Junrong Source : Chinese Social Sciences Today 2017-03-13
The third board meeting of the Think Tank Cooperation Association for the “Belt and Road” Initiative was held on Feb. 24 in Beijing, attracting more than 200 delegates from 93 think tanks and institutes across China.
“Over the past three years, the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative has been implemented along its proposed routes and extended to the whole world. It has met demands and unleashed the vitality of regional development, gaining recognition from an increasing number of countries,” said Guo Yezhou, co-chairman of the association.
Another co-chairman Jiao Yang said that the “Belt and Road” initiative has become increasingly influential across the globe since it was proposed. China is constantly promoting strategic cooperation with countries along the proposed routes while a batch of remarkable projects has been launched. A large-scale cooperative network has taken shape through the joint efforts of a growing number of participants in the initiative.
“China has signed cooperative agreements in 2016 with two international organizations and 14 countries, such as Poland, Kazakhstan, Laos, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” said Song Lihong from the Comprehensive Department under the Ministry of Commerce.
Song said major tasks include promoting collaborative policies and strategies as well as expanding trade and investment. China and some countries are also working together to build industrial parks and free trade zones. The project of China-Europe block train will receive a boost. At the same time, people -to-people exchanges will be promoted, with an emphasis on establishing a green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful Silk Road.
The “Belt and Road” initiative further promotes cooperations and exchanges. China has strengthened investment, trade and project construction in the countries along the routes. Investment has reached more than $120 billion and the number of cooperative parks totals 65, said Wu Zhicheng, director of the Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University.
The upcoming Belt and Road summit for international cooperation in May represents a significant step toward optimizing the initiative. In the future, cooperation will go beyond production capacity, and build partnerships in the aspects of economy, trade, technology and humanities, said He Junchen, deputy director of the Research Center for Global Affairs under Xinhua News Agencies.
Guo believed that the summit will be the highest-level event since the proposal of “Belt and Road” initiative, and that it will highlight negotiation, collaboration and sharing.
Li Jianwei, a research fellow from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, stated that the summit will be a crucial opportunity for China to establish discourse power. In this process, issues concerning development and governance that draw global attention should be emphasized. Also, discourse power in the “Belt and Road” initiative relates to China’s contributions to global society in terms of public goods and its efforts to drive economic globalization, Li added.
When it was proposed, the “Belt and Road” initiative was questioned at home and abroad in terms of its importance, potential and solutions, said Zhang Weili, counselor of the Department of International Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He added that the doubts have been basically eliminated due to consecutive optimization, introduction and practices. Its connotations grew more abundant and it extends to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
In the future stage of optimization, governments should lead the work while the academics should research the route map, suggested Huang Ping, director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The most remarkable sign of upgrading in the process of construction is the shift of attention from China to the world. First, prototype projects are necessary, such as the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone in Cambodia and Rayong Industrial Zone in Thailand. Also, shortages in talent and mechanisms should be remedied, said Zhao Kejin, deputy director of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University.
Deputy director of Renmin University of China Wu Xiaoqiu argued that human connections are the key to the construction along the routes of “Belt and Road.” The relationship indicates cultural tolerance and mutual respect.
Since September 2013, more than 100 countries and global organizations have joined in the construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative. More than 40 of them have signed agreements with China for cooperation.